Sarri on Kante’s role, City, his long-term target for Chelsea and why he’s reluctant to drop Alonso

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri spoke about a number of issues at a media conference ahead of the game against Manchester City. Here’s what the Italian had to say. 

On the latest team news

“At the moment we have no serious injuries. I think that every player will be able to play, but of course I have to see in the last training (session).”

On facing City

“The match for us is really very important. We know very well that it’s a difficult match.

“It’s a very difficult match against, maybe, the best team in Europe at the moment. So we know very well that it’s very difficult.

“It’s impossible to beat them in a long period, of course, in this moment. But in a match, everything can happen.”

On how to beat Pep Guardiola’s side

“I don’t know. Again Guardiola I lost every match. So I don’t know – you will have to ask somebody else!”

On the gulf between Chelsea and City

“I know that we started with 30 points of difference and we have to work to reduce the gap.

“I think we are improving but they are improving also so it’s very difficult to cover the gap.

“I don’t know the difference at the moment. We started the season very well. Now we have to face some difficulties.

“At the moment they are stronger than us, but our final target is to be the best in Europe.”

On suggestions he is playing N’Golo Kante in the wrong position

“The problem is only the results. When we won, the position of N’Golo was ‘good’. So it’s only down to the results.

“At the moment, we’re not winning so it’s normal that some players are playing very badly, some players are in the wrong position.

“I explained why, usually, Kante plays in that position. I have my opinion. I can understand that you or someone else doesn’t agree. But I explained very well why.”

On Chelsea’s recent poor displays

“We have a problem to manage the match at the moment, because in the last two matches we played well for 55, 60 minutes, but then at the first difficulty we went in blackout.

“In the first match (against Fulham) we were lucky because they didn’t score. In the last match (at Wolves) we were a little bit unlucky because for the opponents there were five shots, only two on target, and we conceded two goals. But after the first goal we went in blackout. We were not able to react.

“I think it’s normal that sooner or later to have some difficulties in a new way of playing. We have to work and have to try to solve problem by problem, day by day, to improve in a definitive way.”

On the reasons for the dip in form

“It’s not very easy to answer. I saw in the last matches that when there is the first difficulty we went in blackout and didn’t react as a team in the right way, so it’s a big problem.”

On whether Chelsea lack leaders

“We need a leader but I also think we need a collective target because a collective target can give us motivation and that can give us determination.

“I saw that in some matches that we lack determination. In the last match we did not have the right determination.”

On whether Marcos Alonso is tired

“In the last period he didn’t play a lot. He wasn’t in the national team in the last international break.

“He played in all the 14 matches in the Premier League but he didn’t play in the Europa League and he didn’t play in the (Carabao) Cup.

“He played not very well against Fulham. He played better in the first half in the last match and then he had problems in the second half.”

On whether Alonso might be dropped

“I need to understand, because for me he is not tired. I want to see the last training (session) and then I will decide.

“Of course Emerson is a good option. But I have to also consider some details. For example, without Alonso we could have problems in set pieces. So I have to consider everything.”

On whether the job is tougher than he expected

“No, because when you are improving you have to pass these moments.

“I knew very well that sooner or later we would have to face difficulties because when you change the way of playing you need to change the mentality in 25 heads.

“It’s not a short way. It’s very difficult, as we saw in Liverpool and in Manchester, but from the solution of the difficulties you can create something very important.

“You cannot change the mentality in one day. You change it day by day, only 1% maybe a week, so it’s a long way. It’s a long story.

“I was sure that sooner or later we’d have to face problems, but I thought it would be in the first two months.

“The first two months we played well, we gained points. And so I thought that the problems would arrive in November and December – I was sure.”